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August 11, 2006

Fries 'n Frostys

Dominic Armato
This is not how I expected to round out my Friday evening.

About four hours ago, three companions and I were cruising our way up Ashland Avenue on our way to Spacca Napoli for yet another fantastic meal, when we passed a Wendy's. Though I'm not sure who started it (might've been me), the conversation turned to the budding if not exploding phenomenon of the marriage of french fries and frostys. Oddly enough, this was perhaps the fifth or sixth time this subject has come up over the past few months. Even before Wendy's decided to build a PR campaign around it, this particular combination seemed to be getting an awful lot of internet buzz.

I try very hard not to dismiss these sorts of "low food" phenomena (a remarkably pretentious term that I'd like to replace with a better one if I could think of it) without some kind of firsthand experience. I scoffed at fried Twinkies for quite a while, until I tried one and learned that the end product could, in fact, be a rather sublime snacky cake. But the fries and frostys thing just didn't compute. As such, the four of us resolved to test the theory on the way back home. The verdict? A grossly overrated combination. BUT, I think I understand the source of the appeal, even if the credit is misplaced.

It's the salt.

I don't think chocolate and fried potatoes do anything for each other, but chocolate and salt, now that's another matter entirely. It's a classic combination for which the potato is merely a vehicle. This was, in fact, my suspicion going into the tasting, and the hands-on merely confirmed it. The way to test this, of course, would be to replace the standard Wendy's fries with unsalted fries and see if the appeal remains for those who swear by it. Any takers?


I think I first tried this with the crew at the "Wendy's Oasis" above I-294 off of 55th Street in the summer of 1985. It's an OK combo. Very true that chocolate and salt are a beautiful combo. Last week in Larkspur, CA I had some Scharffen Berger chocolate soft serve ice cream with sea salt and evoo. The texture of the soft serve is similar to the frosty texture but the complex bittersweet chocolate of the soft serve beats Wendy's one-dimensional chocolate flavor by far. I think the part I liked most about the frosty/fry combo was the extreme coldness against the hot fries. Seems like the Wendy's frosty was colder than cold on those hot summer days in Chicago. It would be better if the fries were crispier at Wendy's. That would give a flavor, temerature, and texture contrast that would deserve a standing ovation. Maybe we should try to recreate a "gourmet version" of this ghetto/ trailor park phenomenon by making thin crispy fries (more outer crunch, less inner soggy starch and more surface area to hold the salt) coated with olive oil and sea salt to dip in an interesting bittersweet chocolate frosty of our own concoction?

Thanks for keeping up the great posts

Right on... this one's just crying out to be classed up.

I love hot/cold contrast, but my fries were... less than hot... so I think that particular element was lost on me :-)

I'm thinking gaufrette potatoes is the way to go. Tons of crispy, very little inner mushiness, plus a really nice texture and all kinds of nooks and crannies to hold coarse salt. The shape is perfect for scooping, and should allow you to get a nice shot of salt as your tongue hits the underside.

All right, that's it. I'm doing it. Recipe to follow.

Gaufrette potatoes is a great idea. My aunt in Florida used to send us boxes of chocolate covered potato chips in the mail when we were kids. I have not thought of those or frosties and fries in years!

In Oriol Balaguer's book, Dessert Cuisine (highly recomended) he has chocolate sorbet paired with shaved bread, olive oil, and salt. He says it is inspired by a childhood snack his mother used to feed him.

Like you said, it's not really about the potato, it's about the salt. But for me, I like the hot cold contrast, and although I like the idea of the crunch of the gaufrette, It may not stay as hot as a thin french fry would.

Though I can't seem to find any evidence to support this online, I heard a while back that Frosties lend their excellent texture to the fact that Wendy's puts potato flakes in them. It seemed to make perfect sense to me. No wonder I loved Frosties so much! It's a potato shake! Anyway, I thought that might be another reason they go so well together (though I've never tried the combination myself) -- because the Frosty already has potato in it.

Nope... according to the Wendy's website, no potato in the Frosty :-)

After reading MiniMonkey's comment I was reminded of a similar statements, including one claiming McDonald's Apple Pies used potatoes instead of Apples (since when are apple's too expensive?) and another saying that McDonald's milkshakes were soy based (and relatively healthy?) well again not true (on either account).

Anyway, not a fast food expert (thankfully try to avoid the stuff - "low food", no snobbery intended) I'll add that I've enjoyed your posts and look forward to trying a beef sandwich next time I'm in Chicago.

Back in California (1980), we used to get shakes, fries, and a hamburger one day a week at our middle school. The shakes came in three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. The chocolate was almost never available for me and my friends, as our class was too far from the cafeteria; by the time we got there, they were gone. So, it was vanilla or strawberry.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful pleasure to dunk our fries in our ice-milk shakes. The trick is to have super-crisp shoestring fries where the grand majority of the surface of the fry is golden brown (but not burnt).

Low food at its lowest perhaps, given the nature of institutional food. Still, if I'm given fries and a shake at the same time, I can't resist the urge, even if it's nostalgia (and not my taste buds) behind my compulsion.

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